Jump to content

2013-14 TB Lightning Playoff Push

Recommended Posts

It's about that time of year.


Yes, wherever I have been a member of a hockey or general sports forum, I have usually started up a thread chronicling the Tampa Bay Lightning's attempt at making a playoff run. And I usually start it up around the halfway point in the season...and whaddya know? Here we are where most teams are in the 40-43 games played range!


And since Hockey Forums seems populated with pretty knowledgeable and passionate puck fans, it seems an even BETTER place to do my thing here than in any other place where I've previously done these types of threads.


Just a quick heads up on what to expect from this thread:


Basically I go in-depth as to the doings of the Tampa Bay Lightning...everything from team moves, players on the ins and outs with their coaches, how well players are performing, the team's chances of making the post season, team attitudes, and of course, every so often, I will talk about a specific game, things that went on during that game, and the opponent faced that night.


Posters here are MORE than welcome to chime in on any topics I touch up on regarding the Lightning...but also, if I happen to be talking about a particular opponent or potential opponents, posters can of course, put in their opines on things regarding those teams and how they relate to either the Lightning or the playoff chase in general.


All I ask is any participants to please try to stay on with the theme of the thread, but by no means is anything here a dictatorship. I'd love to get participation from fans of other teams and hear their viewpoints on the Bolts or Bolts recent or upcoming opponents.


Thank you all.


Without further ado, within the next few minutes, I will post my first thoughts on the 2013-14 Bolts and their most recent game against the Vancouver Canucks and their upcoming tilt against the Calgary Flames tonight.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wed, Jan 1, Lightning @ Canucks

Final: TB 4, Van 2



Bolts got their current North West Canadian road trip started off right with a very big win against a contending Vancouver Canucks team.

Granted, the game didn't get off to the most exciting start, and there were lapses on both sides in the game defensively, but bottom line was, TB pulled out the win, Ben Bishop, as usual, made the Bolt offense stand, and the Lightning came away with two points against possibly the most talented team they will face on this particular road trip.


Tampa Bay was smart to stay out of the penalty box, limiting the Canucks to just two PP chances, and they pretty much kept the Sedins in check all night.

I know former TB Coach John Tortorella could not have been too happy with the Canucks lack of attention to detail on some plays in the 2nd and 3rd periods, but then again, the Lightning forwards did their jobs in creating time, space, and in finishing plays against Eddie Lack (yes, no Luongo in this one) while Ben Bishop covered up for many Lightning defensive gaffes.


And this game, along with the previous good run the Bolts had, all without the services on one Steven Stamkos.

I always said, that if the Lightning can play at or slightly above .500 while Stamkos is out, they'd still be able to make the post season when (hopefully) he returns.

Right now, that is looking like the case.


I would have liked to have seen some more impactful checking on the part of the Lightning against the Canucks, but I am slowly beginning to realize that this team simply won't play that way outside of a select few players.

This is both good and bad, in the sense that while the Bolts certainly have the talent, speed and scoring ability to just skate and play, they WILL run into teams (such as Calgary and Winnipeg on this trip) who will look to engage the team quite physically, and the Bolts may not have the time and space they need to skate like they'd like.

In that way, Tampa Bay will need to utilize the team size and adapt to a more grinding style...something they have struggled with a bit this season overall.


They got away with some plain vanilla skating against Vancouver..along with some great playmaking and finishes...simply because the Canucks seemed content to try and skate and go play for play with Tampa Bay.

I am sure Torts would have liked to have seen some more physicality out of his team...knowing full well how TB sometimes struggles with teams that employ that strategy.

But this game played right into what the Bolts wanted....very fast, mostly north-south game...with Ben Bishop taking care of keeping pucks out of nets.


Will the Bolts enjoy the same success rate doing what they did in Vancouver against the Flames tonight? Hmm...not so sure.

While the 'Nucks have more talent up and down their roster, the Flames come to play EVERY night...they bring the physicality, and they WILL try to get under the skin of Bolts players and turn the entire game into a complete grinding affair.


Here is hoping the Lightning can adapt and make the Flames adjust to them rather than the other way around.

Calgary may not be anywhere near the top of the league, but taking them lightly would be a big mistake for Tampa Bay to make.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some divisional playoff notes:


The Bruins, Lightning, Canadiens, and Maple Leafs all seem to be winning and losing at about the same clip (mostly winning lately) and are creating some space between themselves and the bottom half of the Atlantic Division.

Detroit, while only being a single point behind the 4th place Leafs, just seem to be headed in the wrong direction and things don't look to improve for them much as they play Dallas tonight, then go off on a Pacific Division road trip, ending with a road game in New York before seeing the Kings at home once again.


Quite possible the Atlantic Division could put four teams in the playoffs (the top three guaranteed and at least one WC, if not both) and the Bolts are in the mix for that and even challenging Boston for the top spot...record wise anyways.

Bolts need quite a bit of work to actually BEAT the Bruins head to head...hmm..something about physical play, tough defense.....  :)


Lightning can make some hay with their current road trip: Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, before going home to face the Capitals.

Not going to say any team on that list will be 'easy', but they certainly have their flaws and the Bolts, even without Stamkos, have the ability to really put it to any of those on the scoreboard.

This in turn, should put pressure on the Bruins, Habs, and Leafs to continue to win in order to keep pace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some player insights:


Valteri Filppula has been an absolutely BRILLIANT signing!

I know that is no real secret, but I just needed to put that out there.

Aside from the play of Ben Bishop and the maturing of some of the younger TB players, this team would be hard pressed to be sniffing any playoff chances without the great play of Filppula...particularly in the absence of Steven Stamkos.


For awhile, Filppula was made the number one center, but in more recent games, he  has been put back into his 2nd center position, and Tyler Johnson has been moved up to the number one spot.

Johnson has stepped up his game, registering a point in each of his last four games and giving teams the opposition fits in their defensive zones with his tireless play and vision in finding his wingmates on the ice in generating scoring chances.


A small player and still only 23 yrs old, I think the ceiling is still quite high for Johnson and the Lightning will have an interesting decision to make once Stamkos returns and if Johnson is still playing the quality brand of hockey he has been playing.


Recent callup JP Cote has done a pretty good job of leaving his physical imprint on the opposition.

With Eric Brewer hurting a bit on defense for the Bolts and Andrej Sustr still finding his physical niche on the team, Radko Gudas now has some help in putting on some hits on opposing forwards looking to skate scott free through the neutral zone.

Not only has the journeyman Cote done his job physically, but he has also shown up a bit on the scoresheet, registering 3 points in six games played since his callup. Nice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fri, Jan 3, Lightning @ Flames

Final: TB 2 , Cgy 0


Sun, Jan 5, Lightning @ Oilers

Final: Edm 5 , TB 3



Two games in which the Bolts had lots of jump to their game but with obviously different results.

Calgary, as expected, came out trying to play a physical game on the Bolts, but not only was Tampa Bay able to match that intensity, but were able to skate and generate plenty of scoring chances as well.


In fact, the Bolts in this game seemed to pick up where they left off in the Vancouver game: lots of pressure from the forwards, outstanding goaltending by Ben Bishop (hence the shut out), and good defensive coverage by the D.

Game could have probably been around 4-0 or so, had it not been for Calgary's Karri Ramo.

And as hard as the Flames played, one could see during this game one of the main reasons they are near the bottom of the standings: WAY too many turnovers, not only in their attempts at transition offense, but at the own blue line as well.


The Oiler game, well, I believe I owe Edmonton an apology.

I said that during this road trip, Vancouver was possibly the most talented team the Bolts would face.

The Oil proved me wrong on this. Their collection of highly talented forwards overwhelmed Lightning defenders on many occasions during this game.

They skated, passed, set up plays, and pushed the puck up the ice quickly and efficiently in such ways, that it reminded me why this team is only a defensive piece or two (along with solid, consistent goaltending) away from being a regular contender. Their young players are that good.


Vancouver may be the more complete overall team when measured up against Edmonton, but the Oilers certainly seem to have the offensive talent and team speed over the 'Nucks.

And that showed big time as the Lightning played well in their own right offensively, but simply could not keep up playing run n gun with the blue n orange.


As for goaltending in this game, Ben Bishop had to leave the game quite early in the 1st period with a hand/finger issue. That left Anders Lindback to come in completely cold and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Edmonton used that as extra motivation to really push the play in the offensive zone seeing as how Lindback was coming in off the bench replacing what appears to be a Vezina candidate in Ben Bishop.


Had Bishop been able to stay in, would the Oil have gotten the 5 goals they did? Tough to tell.

Bishop, for sure, probably would have stopped 1 or 2 of the goals Lindback let in...then again, maybe not.

Edmonton really was sharp on the offense and simply had a really good offensive gameplan going in: Overwhelm, overwhelm, overwhelm.


In doing so, they did give up scoring chances to the Lightning the other way, but in this particular game, their offense was so good, that it didn't seem to matter how many chances the Lightning got.

Ilya Bryzgalov, while not being particularly outstanding, did his job when he really needed to nonetheless and was a reason TB didn't get anymore than the 3 goals they did.


Bolts finish the 4 game Western Canadian road trip tonight in Winnipeg against a team that is coming off an 0-3 road trip (losses in Ottawa, Boston, and Pittsburgh), where the Jets played really well for portions of those games, though obviously not enough to get them wins.

Point being, with Ben Bishop still out, Anders Lindback and the Lightning defense will have to be particuarly wary of the Jets....as they will not only look to play a hard physical game, but may try taking a page out of Edmonton's book and overwhelm the Lightning defense and goal crease with shots, bodies, screens, you name it.


Lightning's best chance is to play in Winnipeg's zone as much as possible, not deviate too much from what they had done the previous games on this road trip offensively, but also hope Lindback is up the challenge of keeping things manageable throughout the game.

And if Lindback isn't up to par, it could mean trouble for Tampa Bay as journeyman minor league goaltender Cedrick Desjardins will be his backup tonight...yikes!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ben Bishop.


This from the Tampa Bay Tribune:



From the sounds of this article, Bishop may not be out as long as some had originally speculated.

Nothing is set in stone...in fact, his exact injury is still being investigated...so the team and fans alike will just have to wait and see what will come of this.


Already without Steven Stamkos, the loss of Ben Bishop for any significant amount of time would be huge. I dare say not having Bishop right now is WORSE than not having Stamkos.

Other players can step up (and they have) in Stammer's absense, but it will take a herculean effort by Lindback or anyone else the Bolts put in net to come anywhere close to what Ben Bishop has done for the team as the backstop.


As I mentioned in my previous post, 28 yr old minor league journeyman Cedrick Desjardins will be Lindback's backup while Bishop is out. A situation the Bolts definitely do NOT want to go on for any longer than it has to.

Desjardins has not seen any time with the big club this year, but in down in Syracuse, he has posted a 2.75 GAA to go with a .903 Sv %, along with a 5-8-2 record.

He does have two shut outs in 18 games played with the Crunch, but really, this guy is simply not someone you want to count on to shut down NHL level teams...and the Bolts still don't play airtight enough on defense to make him look better than he is either.


In Syracuse, with 25 yr old Riku Helenius struggling (even got sent down to the ECHL's Florida Everblades!), and 21 yr old Kristers Gudlevskis still very green and developing, Desjardins, right now, is the Bolts best option for backing up Anders Lindback.


Over in the KHL, the Lightning have a real good looking goalie prospect in Russian Andrei Vasilevski, however, he is still 19 yrs old and while doing well in Russia's top league and in the recent World Juniors, is not an option at this time for the Lightning in the NHL, as playing regularly in the KHL right now is better than riding a bench in either the AHL or NHL for Vasilevsky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  Read every word, you have a real gift for writing and your stuff is far more enthralling than most journalist who do it for a living. To say you know your stuff is the understatement of the century...some truly amazing insight...just fantastic stuff.


 Can I get an update on the progress of Richard Panik? I still hold out hope this kid can turn into a very talented power forward, I tell ya, he has the talent to score 30 goals in this league if the stars align right....also, one of the most physical Europeans to ever grace the NHL ice, full of potential that kid.


 Even though I have only been to a few Spits games this year, I do watch a few on TV also...so I thought it would be nice of me to give you some insight on the Bolts first round pick from a few years ago, Slater Koekkoek (spelling...lol). This kid is the real deal. Amazing skater, top 5% in all of North America if you ask me. Stunning poise, this kid has it all, although not overly physical...he needs to work on that aspect. His hockey sense is literally off the charts. He's a amazing +37 on a slightly better than average Spits team. He's good enough to be a first team all star kind of prospect....he reeks of hockey wisdom and sheer athleticism...if there is a better skating offensive d man out there, I have not seen him. Not sure why my post went so small, but don't want to play around with it and lose the post, which has happened far to often on this crappy laptop....lol.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the compliment @jammer2 , always nice to have an audience and participation. I do try!  :)


As for your request on a Panik update, right now, he seems to be slowly re-earning Coach Jon Cooper's trust.

Can't quite put my finger on what the situation was, but for awhile, Panik was a healthy scratch on many nights OR he saw very little ice time, after seeing regular time on a second or third line beginning with last season.


Coach Cooper seems to know him best from his Syracuse/Norfolk coaching days, and it seems in the AHL, Panik was every bit the player you described.

However, for whatever reason, he has had a bit of trouble translating that consistently to the NHL.


In watching the guy myself, sometimes it seems he may be trying TOO hard. He either focuses so much on offense, that he forgets his defensive responsibilities and/or positioning.

Or he focuses so much on trying to 'stir up the pot' and agitate a bit, that he takes ill advised penalties at the WORST possible time, or focuses so much on defense at times (hanging back, supporting puck carriers, etc), that he seems to forget that he DOES have an offensive game, and in particular, if he is playing on a line with say, a Valteri Filppula, he needs to be in the right place, at the right time, because Filppula is a master at dishing the puck and needs guys that anticipate in order to generate quality scoring chances and get those goals!


According to his game logs, Panik has been getting around 7-9 minutes of ice time per night lately. That is up from the paltry 6 or less he was getting for a bit when he WASN'T scratched. And he is seeing that time now mostly on the 3rd line, occasionally on the 4th line, but this guy really, where he needs to be, is on one of the top two lines, and seeing more PP time as well.

Perhaps since Coach Cooper knows him so well, he knows how much to push Panik....how much to frustrate him by taking away his ice time...and how much reward he should give back based on his performance and/or attitude on the ice.


I think Panik does have the potential to be a pretty damned good NHL player with the Lightning, or anyone else for that matter. On another thread I even went so far as to compare him to Claude Lemieux in many aspects.

Maybe that is a bit too big of a comparison, I don't know...I just know that I've seen him play in the AHL before he became a regular on the Lightning, and I saw many things in him that would suggest he could play a very good power game, score, agitate, and really be a chaotic type player for teams trying to figure out what he is going to do.


He has yet to find that balance in the NHL.

But hey, he is only 22, so if he keeps his head on straight, sky is still the limit for him and could very well carve himself out a very good NHL career yet.


And thanks for Slater Koekkoek. Honestly, I didn't know about him.

I did look up some info on him after you brought him to my attention..... 19 yr old defenseman.  And D-men are notoriously slow developers as compared to forwards. If he is to be the real deal, we still may not hear much about him til he is around 22 or 23 and perhaps then ready to make a jump to either the AHL or NHL.


I will keep an eye on him from now on then.

I am hoping Tampa Bay begins a sort of defenseman development cycle that could carry the team for years. Seems they do well with developing forwards, but outside of a few select D-men (Radko Gudas has turned out and is continuing to come along pretty well), really haven't had that same success rate with the defensemen.

If the Bolts can create a defenseman factory at their lower levels to go along with their pretty good forwards development, then look-out...the Bolts COULD be molding themselves like a Detroit Red Wings who seem to excel at that sort of thing in all player positions.

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  This may sound odd, but I believe Slater can and will make the Bolts right out camp as a 20 year old.. He's such a nice skater the temptation to keep him in the NHL will be to much to pass up. He's a very special talent that will make the jump right away....and won't suffer for it. I believe his smarts will translate well to the NHL game and his cerebral approach to the game combined with his skating make him a no brainer. If Slater is not an all star in the NHL by his 4th to 5th year, I will eat my shorts. I believe the worst he can be is a Marc-Edward Vlasic type but if his offense translates well to the NHL level, which I think it will, he could become a top 10 d-man in this league if all the stars align properly. The more I see him, the more he reminds me of a young Larry Murphy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...